Please note: this post was written in 2014, so the situation is likely to have changed.
Entering Bolivia at Copacabana, it's hard to remember this is a landlocked country. Wide enough that the horizon is flat in places, with sandy beaches and the occasional seagull, Lake Titicaca is a beautiful concession for the Bolivian's stolen coastline.
Although Copacabana itself is touristy, a beachfront plagued by swan-shaped pedalos, the lake is enormous. Walk for half an hour in either direction and you´ll be alone in rural Bolivia.
To the north, pigs and donkeys line the dirt road while indigenous women in colourful shirts work the earth for potatoes. With time, energy and the lake on your left, you can walk all the way to the headland and see the outlines of the legendary Islas del Sol and Luna. Along the way the countryside swaps between traditional farmland, the lake fringed with reeds and ducks, to severe rocky cliffs and tiny beaches below.
Walking is obviously free and there are plenty of places to explore, but for B20 you can catch a small boat to the magical Isla del Sol itself where the Incas believed their Sun God was born.
Apart from the various boletos*, staying on the Isla del Sol is equally cheap and even less stressful than the mainland.
As there are no cars, the best way to discover the whole island, which is 14.3km², is to stay for a night and walk around at your own pace. The atmosphere is relaxed and with small ports in the north and the south, we decided to walk up along the ridge in the morning and spend a night in the less populated northern side.
This view is just a glimpse of the patchwork farmland and glassy, patterned water we could see below...
Exploring on foot you can find deserted beaches with crystal clear water, fishing families going about their everyday lives and a great view of the snowy mountains on the mainland if the weather is clear.
Amazingly we found a hostel with lake views and a private room for B20. To find it, in the northern side of the island, cross away from the beach, where the boats leave from, to the quieter side of the headland where there is another stretch of sand. It's called Hostal a la Playa.
Below is the view from our budget hostel one evening... :)
Lake Titicaca is a beautiful, safe place to relax after crossing the border. If you have time for more than a day trip, you can also discover some of this altitude's most abundant flora and fauna.
It's important to note that at around 3800m, with strong winds and sun, it's easy to get dehydrated or suffer from altitude sickness. Bring plenty of water, food, suncream and maybe a hat.
You should try the local fish. Trout (trucha) is especially popular and quite delicious when fried with butter.
- Crossing the border from Peru we had no problems with immigration officials, but did have to wait for around two hours in the queue. It's easier to travel to Puno first and onwards to Copacabana from there.
- *To the Isla del Sol it costs B20 one-way to the southern port (Yumani) and B25 to Challampampa in the north. If you catch the boat to the south and walk to the north however, you'll have to pay a B15 ticket in order to pass through the middle of the island, so don't be fooled into thinking that's a clever way to save money.
- To get to anywhere else in Bolivia the most simple way is to take a bus to La Paz and onwards from there. The journey has the added excitement of a lake crossing. For this we needed to separate from our bus, pile into a little boat and watch an unlikely looking wooden raft carry the vehicles across.
- Be aware that there are several bus stations in the capital. Be careful of dodgy taxis, instead ask a local on the bus where you should catch a minibus from. It's cheaper and safer.
- Copacabana- Hostal Andino B20 per person
- Isla del Sol- Hostal a la Playa B20 per person
Both were very basic, but clean with private bedrooms and friendly staff.
Thank-you for reading!
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Crossing the lake with the bus. ^